Hong Kong, China:
Hong Kong police arrested more than 300 people on Wednesday – including nine under the new Chinese national security law – as thousands of people defied a protest ban on the anniversary of the city’s transfer to China .
Police used water cannons, pepper spray and tear gas during a series of confrontations with protesters, one day after China sparked global criticism for imposing controversial legislation at the financial center.
Beijing said the law would restore stability after nearly a year of unrest, but instead, it has unleashed the worst street violence in months.
Police said a police officer was stabbed in the shoulder while trying to make an arrest.
Under the new law, certain political opinions and symbols became illegal overnight, including showing their support for the independence of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet.
Details released by police on Wednesday accused those arrested under the new law of having independence flags, stickers and flyers.
“Advocating for Hong Kong’s independence is against the law,” said Minister of Security John Lee.
Yet many of those demonstrating on Wednesday chanted slogans of independence – now against the law themselves.
“What this authoritarian regime wants to do is terrorize people and prevent them from leaving,” Chris To, a 49-year-old protester, told AFP.
– Broken promise? –
The opprobrium on the law has poured in from critics and Western governments – led by the United States and Britain – fearing that the law will usher in a new era of continental-style political repression.
In an agreement before the 1997 transfer to Britain, authoritarian China guaranteed Hong Kong’s civil liberties as well as judicial and legislative autonomy until 2047 in a formula known as ” one country, two systems. “
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the law violated this agreement, a registered treaty.
Britain has also said it will move ahead with previously announced plans to extend a possible path to citizenship for some three million Hong Kongers.
The chief envoy from Washington promised unspecified countermeasures.
“(China) has promised 50 years of freedom to the people of Hong Kong and has given only 23,” said Mike Pompeo.
Beijing said foreign countries should remain silent about the law, while Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam hailed the legislation as “the most important development” since the city returned to Beijing rule.
– Polarizing date –
After huge and often violent demonstrations in favor of democracy last year, the authorities have shown zero tolerance for rallies, even peaceful ones, in recent months.
Meetings of more than 50 people are in any case prohibited by anti-coronavirus regulations – even if the local transmissions are finished.
But the anniversary of July 1 has long been a polarizing day in the city.
Beijing loyalists celebrate Hong Kong’s return to the Chinese homeland after a century and a half of what they see as a humiliating colonial rule over Britain.
Early Wednesday, helicopters flew over Victoria Harbor with Chinese and Hong Kong flags, while a barge passed before the law, hailing giant Chinese characters on scaffolding.
Democrats have long used the transfer date to organize rallies as popular anger at Beijing has increased – although this year’s event has been banned for the first time in 17 years.
During huge demonstrations for democracy last year, the city’s legislature was besieged and ransacked by protesters.
– Chinese jurisdiction and life sentences –
The “One country, two systems” formula has helped to consolidate Hong Kong’s status as a world-class business center, strengthened by an independent judiciary and invisible political freedoms on the continent.
But critics have long accused Beijing of sabotaging this status and describe the new security law as the most shameless decision to date.
It was passed in just six weeks, bypassing the surging Hong Kong legislature, and the precise wording was kept secret until it went into effect on Tuesday evening.
It prohibits subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to undermine national security, with sentences of up to life in prison.
It also overturns the legal firewall that existed between the city’s judicial system and the courts controlled by the continent’s parties.
China will have jurisdiction over “serious” cases and its security agencies will also be able to operate publicly in the city for the first time.
Another provision also claims universal jurisdiction for national security crimes committed beyond Hong Kong or China.
Canada has warned the citizens of Hong Kong that they are at increased risk of arbitrary detention or even extradition to China.
Authorities in Taiwan have opened a new office to care for Hong Kong refugees seeking refuge.
Beijing said the law would not end Hong Kong’s freedoms, but critics have little confidence in the assurances, given how similar national security laws are commonly used on the continent to crush dissent.
(This story has not been edited by GalacticGaming staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)